Things I wish I had known about South Korea before travelling there

It’s not as cheap as people say

Having said that, the food is cheaper than in most other countries. Particularly Japanese and Korean. But if you want to eat imported food, I’m sure its more expensive. Travel is cheaper than many countries, but accommodation can be expensive if you want to stay somewhere comfortable. I actually wasn’t expecting Korea to be cheap because it’s a developed country.

Some people aren’t friendly to foreigners

I mean, a lot are, but you will definitely meet people who don’t give off a friendly impression. I have heard that many Koreans are shy around foreigners so this may be the reason.

There are a lot of old people

As a rapidly-aging country, with a stalling birthrate, Korea has tons of old people. I realised this whenever I travelled on the metro. In England, the birthrate is around 2.2 per woman, compared to 0.88 in Seoul. This means that you will see many more elderly people on the subways than younger people.

It’s very materialistic

There are big department stores everywhere. I enjoyed looking at the displays and experiencing good service in the famous deperatment stores such as Lotte, Hyundai, and Shinsegae. Eventually I found that the consumerism became a bit too much. They all sell the same products. But being able to shop until 9pm was definitely a good thing.

The palaces all look very similar

I visited Changdeokgung and a few days later I visited Deokstgung. Whilst Deokstgung is much bigger, I didn’t feel it offered anything different to what I had already seen. You have to pay to enter the palaces but this only allows you to access the grounds. You don’t get to walk inside any of the rooms. There is a changing of the guards ceremony but there is no king living there, so it’s only for tourists. I didn’t visit Deoksugung, but I’m sure it’s more of the same.

People are very conscious about looks

At first, I was interested in all the pretty women everywhere. Then I noticed that they were also very absorbed, taking selfies of themselves everywhere. Some of the Korean women who are not the most beautiful are often more approachable and easy to talk to. And men are in many cases just as concerned about appearance. If you go to Seoul, you might feel pressured to look good all the time.

It’s governed by a lot of rules

Don’t think that you can go around doing as you please. Like anywhere, there are rules, and Korea has a few you should be aware of. Can you buy something in a store and then return it? I’m not sure, and I can’t imagine they would be cool with it. You have two order a certain amount of meat in barbecue restaurants.

There are no bars

You can find many restaurants and Izakaya style pubs, but Korea doesn’t seem to offer anywhere for people who just want to have a drink.

It will be totally great in-spite of all these things. Going the first time was a big shock but the second time around will be a lot more straightforward.

Leave a Reply